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to LEED® or not to LEED®…

Tags: , , , , , , , ,     Categories: sustainable design, Technical

…that is the question I get all the time.

But first, what is LEED®. LEED® stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a process of third part certification that determines the energy performance of your building. Based on a scoring system you can achieve a number of different levels;

  • just certified (40-49 credits), 
  • Silver (50-59 credits), 
  • Gold (60-79 credits), 
  • Platinum (80+ credits).

These credits can be achieved by meeting the various requirements from each of the following categories (note that each category has prerequisite credits that must be followed in order to achieve any certification);

  • Sustainable Sites (14 available credits) – deals with choosing brownfield’s for your developments, encouraging alternative transportation (hybrid, cycling, etc), protect and restore habitat, manage stormwater, reduce light pollution, reduce heat islands from roof and paving surfaces.
  • Water Efficiency (5 possible credits) – deals with minimizing water use in building, processes, landscaping, maintenance, etc. Also credits for innovative water technologies.
  • Energy & Atmosphere (17 possible credits) – This category deals with reducing your energy use by using innovative technologies, renewable energy, measuring and monitoring energy use.
  • Materials and Resources (14 credits) – the credits associated with this category is about supporting local business and regional materials, using certified wood, using renewable materials, using materials with recycled content, or recycled materials, and maximizing waste diversion to recycling centers.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (15 credits available) – this category encourages you to use low off-gassing materials, increasing the comfort of occupants with daylight and access to views, providing good ventilation and operable windows.
  • Innovation & Design Process (5 possible credits) – this category suggests you hire and architect (just kidding)! But it would definitely help in coordinating and managing all these credits. This category is for interesting and unique ideas that do not fit into other categories.

After you total up your points then submit the necessary paperwork, you can have LEED® certification! See here for a more detailed checklist.

So what good is that most people ask?

LEED® has a number of benefits. It does good things for the long term operating costs of your building For example less turnover of employees because of the great environment, reduced energy costs, a sense of responsibility to the future quality of the environment. LEED® can also be a major marketing tool, for example the Fifth Town Cheese was the only LEED® certified facility in Canada of its kind, that pretty unique marketing.

So how much will this cost me? 

This is another common question.  The costs are becoming less and less as more and more people implement green strategies. The legal standards set out by the Building Code, Conservation Authorities, and Municipalities become more in line with LEED® criteria and thus the credits are now required by law anyways. It depends what point you are pursuing and what your project baseline is, but generally there seems to be a range of 0-3% of your construction costs additional. However this upfront cost, will pay itself back many times over through the life of the building. It requires some long term thinking, which most business owners would appreciate.

Material, Energy, and Water savings

Should I pursue LEED®?

This is the most important question! Is LEED® right for you and your project? I recommend that LEED® certification be used where your clients will recognize the certification or you can use it for marketing purposes. But I also always recommend good sustainable design and construction practices and LEED® is a great guide to the options.  But there are other options as well such as Passive Haus, ecological footprint, Green Globes, etc. All which have good ideas for building sustainably.

…in the end its up to you to define what sustainable means to you and how you want to pursue it in your next building project.

Find out more about LEED® here. Or send me a comment if you have more questions about sustainable energy-efficient design

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